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Marijuana is Legal in Ohio, But Your Employer Can Still Drug Test

Business concept about Drug Testing At Work with phrase on the sheet.

The new legislation doesn't affect employers' drug policies.

Last year, Ohio became the 24th state to legalize recreational, adult-use marijuana after the passage of Issue 2. The new law allows adults 21 and over to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, as well as to grow a limited number of marijuana plants at home. Currently, there is no legal way to buy marijuana in Ohio, but that change is likely coming later in 2024.

It's important to remember, though, that when it comes to employment law, marijuana's change of legal status doesn't affect employers' policies. In fact, the law includes specific privileges for employers to restrict marijuana use among employees, notwithstanding their rights outside the workplace.

Ohio employers have the right to fire and discipline workers for marijuana use

Under the newly passed recreational marijuana law, Ohio employers have the same rights that they previously enjoyed under the medical marijuana law. Specifically, employers are permitted to take adverse employment actions against workers who use, possess, or distribute marijuana, including firing, disciplining, or refusing to hire. And they are not required to accommodate your use or possession of marijuana in the workplace.

Moreover, under Ohio law, firing someone for marijuana use in violation of an employer's policies is considered dismissal with cause, which makes you ineligible for unemployment benefits. And if you are fired for violating your employer's drug policy, you generally cannot sue for wrongful termination.

In short, nothing in the new law interferes with employers' existing drug policies, up to and including zero-tolerance policies, nor does it prevent employers from implementing new drug policies.

Workplace drug policies must be enforced in a non-discriminatory manner

While Ohio law gives private employers broad freedom to set and enforce drug policies, it's important to remember that they can't discriminate in how they enforce those drug policies. For example, screening all incoming employees for marijuana is okay, but screening only employees of a particular race or sex is not. Likewise, random drug testing is allowed, but the selection must be truly random and not weighted toward any particular protected class of employees.

In some circumstances, selective enforcement of a workplace drug policy could lead to a viable harassment, discrimination, or wrongful termination claim. If you can present evidence that you were unlawfully targeted for drug screening because of your race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristic, then you may have rights under Ohio and federal law, even if you did use marijuana or another controlled substance.

In a changing workplace, it's important to know your legal rights

As new laws come into effect at the state and federal level, it's critical for employees to know what is and isn't changing and how their rights and responsibilities in the workplace may be affected. If you have any reason to believe your legal rights have been violated, get answers. Talk to an experienced employment law attorney at Gibson Law, LLC today.

Our highly skilled legal team has extensive experience in complex employment law cases and is dedicated to ensuring that your rights are protected. To learn more about how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today.

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